More than half of U.S. doctors have switched to electronic health records and are using them to manage patients’ basic medical information and prescriptions, according to federal data set to be released Wednesday.
The Department of Health and Human Services says it has reached a tipping point as it seeks to steer medical providers away from paper records. Advocates for electronic health records say they have the potential to make medical care safer and more efficient. In 2015, the federal government will start penalizing providers that haven’t begun using electronic health records in reimbursements they get for treating patients.
Overall, some 291,325 doctors and other providers—or around 55% of the office-based providers eligible for federal incentives in exchange for adopting electronic records and using them at a set level—have received payments, the department said. Some 3,880 hospitals have also made the change. Doctors have been paid about $5.9 billion to date for participating in an incentive program established under the 2009 economic-stimulus law. An additional $8.7 billion has gone to hospitals, according to HHS data.
Even medical practices that qualify for the federal payments may still use paper for some tasks, such as taking information from patients when they come for appointments. Some doctors have complained that their system gives them unnecessary warning alerts.
Hospitals and doctors that have hit the current standard for using electronic records are being encouraged to move to a higher stage at which they can share information with other doctors and send patients electronic reminders or summaries of their visits.
Source: www.wsj.com; Louise Radnofsky; May 22, 2013.